Embodying many innovatory features and designed by
Robert J Woods, the FM-1 Airacuda was a five-seat
long-range bomber destroyer. Powered by two engines
mounted as pushers, the Airacuda accommodated two
gunners in forward extensions of the engine nacelles,
these crew members being provided with wing crawlways
enabling them to gain the fuselage in the event
that it proved necessary to evacuate the nacelle gun
positions. The prototype, the XFM-1 powered by two
1150hp Allison V-1710-13 12-cylinder liquid-cooled
engines driving three-blade propellers via 1.62m extension shafts, was flown on 1 September
1937. Twelve evaluation models were subsequently
ordered, nine as YFM-1s and three as YFM-1As which
differed in having tricycle undercarriages. Power was
provided by 1,150hp Allison V-1710-23s, but three
YFM-!s were completed with V-1710-41s of 1,090hp as
YFM-1Bs. The 12 YFMs were delivered to the USAAC
between February and October 1940, and their armament
comprised one 37mm T-9 cannon with 110 rounds
in each engine nacelle, one 7.62mm M-2
machine gun with 500 rounds in each of the retractable
dorsal turret and ventral tunnel positions, and one
12.7mm M-2 gun firing from each of the port
and starboard beam positions. Twenty 13.6kg
bombs could be accommodated internally.
FACTS AND FIGURES
© The highly complicated
electrical system required a
full-time auxiliary petrol
motor running inside the
fuselage to keep it
energized. If it failed (and it
did) the pilot lost flaps, gear, fuel pumps and engines.
© The crew in the nacelles were
more loaders than gunners.
Although they could fire the
27mm cannon, this was
normally done by the fire-control
officer in the fuselage.
© A periscope under the nose
gave the fire-control officer
a view behind and below to
search for enemy fighters.
|A three-view drawing (1160 x 818)|
| Take-off weight||8618 kg||19000 lb|
| Wingspan||21.33 m||70 ft 0 in|
| Length||14.00 m||46 ft 11 in|
| Height||3.78 m||12 ft 5 in|
| Wing area||55.74 m2||599.98 sq ft|
| Max. speed||431 km/h||268 mph|
| Range||2687 km||1670 miles|
|Jeff, e-mail, 02.09.2020 23:04|
Not all "looks good on the drawing board ideas" turn out to be good in practice. This proof of that. Interesting concept they were definitely thinking outside the box but way too many problems.
|Garland Sprinkle, e-mail, 20.06.2015 18:32|
My Dad was stationed at Chanute Field. I recently found a photo of him standing in front of this plane. I noticed it was a pusher which was unusual for the era so I started looking into the history of the plane. Interesting
|bill horsman, e-mail, 17.04.2013 18:48|
Did someone dream this plane up after eating magic mushrooms?
|Matthew Kitchen, e-mail, 26.08.2012 10:41|
A MAJOR piece of junk. Engine problems; bailing-out issues; problems with the APU; the turbocharged carbureted engines had cranky turbo-regulators which caused backfiring; The 37 mm cannons in the engine nacelles filled the entire nacelle with smoke when fired. Absolute piece of crud; although futuristic in design. I thought it was a jet when I first saw it.
|Klaatu83, e-mail, 25.06.2012 00:29|
"THE EARLIEST STANDARD INSTALLATION OF AN APU THAT I KNEW OF WAS ON THE C-46s, A ONE CYLINDER /TWO STROKE ENG."
The first airplane to have an auxiliary power unit was the gigantic Boeing B-15 bomber, which was ahead of it's time, being too large for any of the engines available at the time.
The Airacuda was an ambitious airplane that was designed to satisfy a concept that was, in itself, flawed. The only reason Larry Bell built this airplane at all was because he felt that the best way to get his new airplane manufacturing company noticed was by building an airplane that nobody else would even attempt to build. The only other company that even tried to design an airplane to meet this specification was Lockheed, and they abandoned their attempt very early in the design stage. Bell was proven right. He may not have won a production contract for the FM-1, but his bizarre airplane became widely publicized all over the country and got his firm noticed.
|GAYLORD HALL, e-mail, 01.04.2012 06:30|
I WAS AN INSTRUCTOR AT CHANUTE FIELD WHEN THREE WERE DELIVERED FROM WRIGHT /PAT. THESE WERE QUITE A SIGHT FROM THE B-18s AND MARTIN B-10s WE HAD. I WAS IN THE ENGINE DIVISION AND DO NOT RECALL ANY APU(AUX POWER UNIT). THE EARLIEST STANDARD INSTALLATION OF AN APU THAT I KNEW OF WAS ON THE C-46s, A ONE CYLINDER /TWO STROKE ENG. LOW ELECTRIC POWER WAS A MAJOR PROBLEM FOR ELECTRIC CONTROLLED PROPS. "AIRPOWER" MAGAZINE, SEPT. 1971 HAS A FULL WRITE UP ON THE AIRPLANE. I HAVE FLOWN A 68" /6 POUND ELECTRIC POWERED MODEL OF THIS AIRCRAFT
|Rick Lincroft, e-mail, 26.01.2012 19:15|
@ rich sacchetti
Short answer, "No."
By 1942, all nine surviving YFM-1 airframes were flown by ferry crews to a training facility at Chanute Field, Illinois where the aircraft were assigned to the 10th Air Base Squadron to be used for ground crew instruction. By March 1942, all Airacudas were scrapped.
|Luther E. Franklin, e-mail, 03.01.2012 04:43|
The toy version of this airplane (Hubley Mfg. Co. circa 1937) sells for about $400 in excellent condition (eBay).
|Luther E. Franklin, e-mail, 03.01.2012 04:41|
The BV 141 looked unusual, and for that reason, pilots didn't like her...BUT she was reputed to be a good performer.
|klingon, e-mail, 20.05.2011 05:56|
thi has to be the most idiotic aircraft i have ever seen, and i've seen the blohm & voss BV 141!
|Klaatu, e-mail, 10.05.2011 15:12|
There were a lot of difficulties with this aircraft, not the least of which was, HOW DO THE GUNNERS BAIL OUT IN AN EMERGENCY? Like the other "innovative" pusher aircraft designs of the late '30s and early '40s, this one was built before the invention of ejector seats. The two crew members in the nose risked hitting the tail or getting chopped up by the propellers, but at least they had a chance of making it. However, he two gunners, stuck in those nacelles, had no chance at all!
|XWXwireXWX, e-mail, 17.04.2011 06:03|
The thing looks way too futureistic. it belongs in Sci-fi, and it never would have been operational. Electical was shit, engine viewports (Leading edges) often broke in flight, of which there were only tests. PIECE OF CRAP.
|deaftom, e-mail, 30.03.2011 05:20|
Unfortunately, no complete or partial YFM-1s are still around. I know for a fact there is none at the Oakland Aviation Museum, having visited there last summer.
|CHUCK BAISDEN, e-mail, 11.03.2011 21:29|
Worked on one at Mitchel way back when (1940). If anything could go wrong, it usually did. Electrical system was a nightmare. The YFM1 was a piece of JUNK. Nice to look at but not fly in.
|jd, e-mail, 18.09.2010 13:40|
My high school English teacher's husband worked at an aircraft assembly plant during WWII. On a visit to her house, I saw a hand carved model that he'd made of this particular aircraft. I wondered for years about this plane and only recently saw a photo.
|rich sacchetti, e-mail, 14.08.2010 19:39|
Does anyone know if any of these planes; the BELL YFM-1, YFM-1A, YFM-1B AIRACUDA'S are still around; in a museum or privately owned? It's my understanding there might be one at Oakland International Airport - on display. Anyone know of any others. ALSO: how about the BELL XFL and XFL-1 AIRABONITA? Anyone know if any of these are still in existence? I'm trying to locate one of three tail #'s for this style aircraft; the tail number is #92846. Can anyone help in my quest? Anyone know is this aircraft is in a museum someplace, or has a private owner? Please, it's for the daughter of the Engineer that helped design and build both of these aircraft. e-mail me any data you might have regarding these aircraft, as to their whereabouts. Thank you. RJS
|Marko, e-mail, 09.02.2010 18:45|
It reminds of a plane I saw in a Bugs Bunny Cartoon, Just before it crashes... it runs out of gas and stops 5' off of the ground
|Gary, e-mail, 08.09.2009 06:10|
Very interesting plane. Most prop engine plane are mounted on the front. Does a "pusher" prop give up performance. The Piaggio P180 Avanti would suggest no.
|Larry, e-mail, 10.11.2008 21:50|
My cousin, Brian Sparks, was the test co-pilot who was disabled for life, when trying to bail from this hastily designed plane. The plane's questionable "...reputation probably did much to keep pilots and crews away." from this attractive aircraft. Unfortunately, it ended up becoming a "Hanger Queen".
en.wikipedia.org /wiki /YFM-1_Airacuda
|David, e-mail, 12.10.2008 22:21|
The Aircuda was classified as a heavy fighter, the design imperative being the perceived need to intercept hordes of enemy long-range bombers well out over the Atlantic before they reached the American mainland. The aircraft had minimal defensive armament because the scenario envisioned intercepting the bombers after they were outside their own fighter escorts range. The Aircuda used an innovative central gun control in the main fuselage to aim the 3 cannons, with the nacelle gunners serving primarily as loaders. According to a USAAC test pilot it tended to pitch severly depending on throttle settings, but was extremely stable in the landing approach. One of the design defects he cited was that the Aircuda used a 4 cylinder APU to provide power to all electrical systems, including the main powerplants. He cited a number of instance in which the APU failed, resulting in a total loss of power in the mains. Usually the APU could be restarted in-flight, but on one occasion he was forced to dead-stick the landing. Not a big confidence builder in the pilot ranks. At any rate, the need for the aircraft never materialized, and it was soon superceded by far more capable aircraft.
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